Thursday, October 8, 2009

I'd like to know more about...Longshot

Every morning on the official Marvel Twitter feed, we kick things off by selecting a Spotlight Character for the day. Typically this is something Ryan, what with being Lord of the Twitter and all, would take care of, but with him out post-wedding the first couple days of this week, it fell to myself and Cerilli to handle things. When it came time to choose the Spotlight Character, I just turned to our new intern Kevin and asked him who his favorite Marvel character was.

"I like Longshot."


After Cerilli and I finished razzing the youngster about choosing a dude who sports a mullet and sleeveless leather vest in 2009, I got to thinking a bit about Longshot. You see, unlike Richard Dragon or Shang-Chi, Longshot is not a martial arts master who was created in the 1970's; however, much like Richard Dragon or Shang-Chi, Longshot is a character I have often had some strange affinity for and desired to know more about despite never really reading a wealth of good comics starring him.

My first memory of Longshot is getting a free copy of X-Men #11--Jim Lee's last issue on the book where Longshot seemingly kills Mojo and then finds out Dazzler is pregnant with his --as some sort of promotional deal for Papa Gino's or somewhere. I was mostly gaga over the Jim Lee art at that point, but I could not deny that there was something about this bizarre alternate dimension ruled by a fat blob via controlling TV ratings and the four-fingered Dolph Lundgren-looking type in the copious amounts of black leather who was trying to lead some sort of rebellion.

I caught another whiff of Longshot and the utterly strange mythology surrounding him when he showed up in a pair of X-Men: The Animated Series episodes ("Mojovision" and "Longshot" for those keeping score at home). Seeing the Mojoverse and all its inherent weirdness animated for television was not unlike watching the Muppets or something in that the whole analogy of TV and the networks being some sort of metaphor for loss of individuality and ultimate tyranny was pretty heady, yet they managed to package it into something totally kid-friendly and harmless on the surface. Mojo and the origin of his world really is a pretty brilliant and unique platform, but let's get back to that.

At that point, I really saw Longshot just as one small piece of the larger trippy and appealing Mojoverse puzzle. When I got around to reading some of the Uncanny X-Men run where he was a member of the team, though, seeing him divorced for the most part from those trappings heightened my curiosity. There were just so many quirky little nuggets about Longshot, from his bizarre appearance (and Marc Silvestri did a great job setting him apart from the rest of the cast) to his nebulous "good luck" powers to his naive ability to score any chick despite looking like he belonged in Flock of Seagulls to the fact that he had hollow bones for some strange reason (I don't know if that ever came into play in any story other than Fall of the Mutants where he is able to ride the wind currents up to fight the Adversary because he weighs next to nothing).

Fascination with Longshot's weirdness also beget a sort of admiration of and appreciation for his swashbuckling heroics (he was kinda Nightcrawler while Nightcrawler was MIA) and the fact that he was an absurd optimist in the grim world of the 1980's X-Men, where everything was horrible all the time and this dude still had a smile on his face 90% of the time. The bit at the end of Inferno where Mr. Sinister and the Marauders beat every single X-Man and X-Factor member but don't get Longshot because he's "just lucky" and he's gotta make the last stand is a great moment in the classic "Green Arrow/Hawkeye has to make the one-in-a-million trickshot to take out the villain who just beat up Superman/Thor" tradition.

Time has marched on and Longshot was marginalized for many years, making the occasional guest appearance and hanging around the Exiles for a bit. I actually love his current role in X-Factor as Peter David is the perfect writer to appreciate the absurdity of trying to make a character as dated on the surface as Longshot work in a modern setting and have fun with the square peg/round hole dynamic yet still manage to take it seriously enough to creat a compelling character arc.

My big regret with this character however is that unlike say Richard Dragon or Shang-Chi, he does have a seminal story attached to him and I've just never gotten my grubby paws on it.

Longshot debuted in a self-title six-part 1985 limited series written by Ann Nocenti with art by Arthur Adams that from what I understand is regarded as something of an underground classic. That mini is where everything from Mojo to Spiral to all the TV analogies and subversive messages about the power of fame that have become a fixture of the X-Men mythos for the past two decades came from. It's truly a lost classic for me as I've always been curious to read more of Ann Nocenti's work given that her intensely psychological style seems right up my alley, I'd find a series of blocks drawn by Art Adams to be beautiful, and I want to get the full story on Longshot to boot. It's probably crazy, but I really feel like once I read the original Longshot some whole new avenue of comic book fandom and understanding previously closed to me will suddenly open (or at the very least I'll maybe get that whole Ricochet Rita thing and why Mojo does the Clockwork Orange thing to his eyes).

So if you know somebody who works at Marvel, I urge you to ask them to get Longshot collected in an afforable softcover because I'd really like to check it out.


JimmyGlenn711 said...

I wouldn't hold my breath for a Longshot trade. I remember asking David Gabriel to collect Chris Giaruso's (sp?)Mini Marvel into a digest and I was shot down. I am guessing there's not a huge Longshot fan base.


Why does Longshot have only 4 digits on each hand does anyone know?

Does he have only 4 toes? If so which one is gone?

I guess the Mullet is still big in his area.

Is he alive or dead right now in continuity?

I'd like to think if he and Domino fought it would result in a stalemate.

Rich said...

Always liked Longshot during the Marauders/Outback years on the X-Men - and how can you NOT like a guy that scores with Dazzler?

Never read the mini either, though - although I see the HC is on Amazon for $19 Hmm....

Zach Oat said...

I used to have the Longshot TPB -- not sure when it was released, but that must have been at least 10 or 15 years ago. I must have sold or traded it since then, because I remember not liking the early Art Adams art, and finding the character to be boring outside of the context of the X-Men. Maybe I should revisit it.

Ben Morse said...

Or maybe you should give it to your friend Ben!

KP said...

Ann Nocenti has a killer rep, and people seemed to dig her story in Daredevil #500, but I bet you that you could still find 90% of her issues including the Longshot mini series at no more than two bucks a pop.

Big Money Ben Gebhart said...

Hey! It's super-geek factoid time with Big Money!

- I think Longshot's bones were made hollow to enhance his agility, so he can jump around with ease. Whether he needs House Of Pain to be playing or not, that's up in the air.

- Mojo's eyes are like that, presumably, because he's the ruler of a universe based on TV-watching, and so I guess he'd probably want to prevent himself from not being able to watch it for the rest of his life. In other words, if his eyes don't close, he won't miss anything.

- You ever involve yourself in a "Longshot/Dazzler are Shatterstar's parents" argument during your Wizard tenure? Unfortunately, I think a lot of fans in the 90's remember Longshot for that argument, rather than any good stories he was a part of.

- Favorite Longshot moment? From the aforementioned X-Men #11, where Beast has been made to speak like Scooby Doo thanks to Mojo. All McCoy can say when he sees our hero is, "Ro no! Rit's Rongrot!"

Ben Morse said...

Thanks for that explanation of Mojo's eye thing, Big Money, it makes a lot of sense.

I would have gladly had that argument at Wizard, Marvel, etc., but sadly nobody else cared enough about Shatterstar or his parentage to have it with me. I'm really hoping with Shatty and Longshot both in X-Factor now it gets addressed; I'd actually be pretty shocked if Peter David doesn't at least do a sight gag.

Anonymous said...

Longshot's bones are hollow because he was bred as part of a slave-race to serve the Mojo people, who are fat, psychotic blobs who do nothing but watch television. Longshot arrives on Earth, not knowing anything about himself, other than the fact that "he's lucky" and he can 'read' objects. Dr. Strange makes an appearance. Longshot is meant to lead a slave-rebellion in the Mojoverse. Haven't read it years but the art is simply gorgeous. Oh, and Ricochet Rita is Longshot's girlfriend on earth, a stuntwoman with her own jet-pack.

Anonymous said...

Longshot's bones are hollow, because he is a genetically engineered humanoid, just as all the upright people (slaves) in the mojoverse. He also hasleather-like skin, two hearts and only 4 digits per hand. Longshot also has special gifts - his luck, agility, healing abilities, and his psychometric ability to read emotional memories imprinted on objects as well as their futures.

In other words, Longshot is a mutant in the mojoverse, although he wasn't really born. Mojo's race of spineless people are the native species of the mojoverse. Using their technology they would watch earth television incessantly to the point that they were driven mad. They demanded Arize create a race of slaves for their amusement. The slaves do not always look human, like Longshot. Other slaves such as Quark, are human-animal crosses.

Longshot's luck only works for him if his motives are pure. It won't work if he's being selfish. Quark also possesses this luck power, but unlike Longshot he is a complete pessimist. This is perhaps because his memory hasn't been erased as many times as Longshot and so he has seen him fail to topple Mojo over and over again.

There was a TPB of the Longshot mini-series back in the 90s and a hardcover reprint in the early 2000s. You can probably hunt down the individual issues if you go to any good comic shop.

Anonymous said...

Oh but I forgot to mention, the slaves were designed by Arize to look like the humans they saw on earth television. Humans were mythologized as demons or devils by the spineless ones, so Arize's design was meant to be somewhat ironic. You can read all this in a Longshot bio online.